The arrival of new blood in a region has the power to refresh, enthuse and invigorate, and this is just one facet of wine where the Loire Valley may hold some advantage over more thoroughly defined regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. In these other regions many (if not all) of the greatest terroirs have already been planted and the estates, established for many centuries, are either handed down from one generation to the next or bought and sold by insurance companies and banks for eye-watering prices. The Loire Valley, however, is much more open to newcomers; vineyards remain affordable, and I am certain that some potentially great terroirs remain unexploited or they are at the very least under-appreciated. Even today, new arrivals in the region take advantage of a ready supply of affordable vineyard land in Muscadet, Montlouis and elsewhere, more often than not contributing to the reinvigoration of the appellation in question.
This is not, however, an entirely new phenomenon. The dream of tending your own vines, and making wine for a living, is not a novel concept, it is a bug that has been biting for decades, perhaps even centuries. If we look back to the 1970s, Philippe Delesvaux (pictured below) was one such neophyte who succumbed to the pull of the Loire’s vinous currents.
Philippe Delesvaux, a Parisian by birth, came to the Loire Valley in the 1970s to pursue his agricultural studies. His work on a farm in Anjou provided exposure not only to the management of cereal crops and animal husbandry, but also to a little viticulture. It was this latter element that clearly interested Philippe the most, and as a consequence it was not long before he had settled in the region. The first year he made some vinifications was 1978, which explained why he was able to celebrate twenty vintages with the release of a special Coteaux du Layon cuvée, Le 20, in 1998. It was not until 1983 that he was able to purchase his own vines though, and I think this is perhaps the moment when the Philippe sees the domaine’s future as having been secured.